Cannabis against Covid? Science’s opinion on this possible remedy

Science's opinion on cannabis versus covid.

Modified on: 30/03/2023

Can the properties of cannabis also be useful in the treatment of covid-19?

For several years now, medical cannabis treatments have been accepted and successfully employed in various states worldwide.

The beneficial properties of marijuana seem to be effectively applicable in many medical contexts. However, with the need to curb the spread of Covid-19, some wondered whether they could be exploited in this context.

Let’s first look at what medical cannabis is and whether there is any interaction between cannabinoids and the Coronavirus.

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Medical cannabis: what is it?

Medical cannabis

Medical cannabis refers to a particular strain of cannabis explicitly produced for medical use, thus following the rules and steps for the production and approval of any medicine.

Thus, medical cannabis is not the same as illegally available recreational cannabis.

But what is it used for? Medical marijuana is used to alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy, chronic pain, and the side effects of some particularly aggressive therapies for the body, such as chemo.

It also appears to counteract the degenerative processes of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

The benefits of cannabis on our body are related to the way it – or rather, its components, first and foremost CBD – interacts with the human endocannabinoid system.

This system, consisting of endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes, is responsible for regulating all those physiological processes that determine the maintenance of homeostases, such as appetite, sleep, pain perception and mood regulation, to name a few.

Through the release of endocannabinoids into the circulation, the response of receptors is stimulated, which communicates to the cells what the body needs at that particular moment.

When these receptors do not function well naturally, the introduction of exocannabinoids can be used to stimulate their activity. Cannabinoids are not only found in the human body (endocannabinoids) but are also contained in medicines (synthetic cannabinoids) and certain plants (phytocannabinoids), such as cannabis.

Thus, the intake of marijuana can induce effects in the body, particularly in the endocannabinoid system, which are very similar to those of many drugs, restoring the balance that is lacking due to illness.

Let us now look at which pathologies the use of medical cannabis may be indicated for.

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Which pathologies seem to benefit from the use of medical cannabis?

The issue that has revolved around the use of marijuana for years still generates confusion, most likely due to the psychotropic effects on the body of those who take it. For this reason, it is worth reiterating once again that traditional recreational cannabis and medical cannabis are not the same things.

Indeed, when speaking of medical marijuana, it is essential to specify that the concentration of the active ingredients naturally present in the plant, specifically THC and CBD, is functional to achieve medical purposes. More clearly, the percentage of THC contained in the drugs is meagre. It is limited to the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol that may be useful for the cause without reaching concentrations that induce the so-called high.

Medicinal cannabis is used effectively to control nausea, vomiting, and appetite, mainly in patients during chemo- and radiotherapy treatments. It also plays an active role in the treatment of chronic pain.

Another use of medical marijuana is successfully employed to treat muscle spasms in patients who have multiple sclerosis.

Moreover, medical cannabis does not only appear to be helpful in the treatment of pain as an antispasmodic and anticonvulsant, but it also seems to have the ability to reduce eye pressure in cases of glaucoma, thanks to its well-known hypotensive properties.

Its qualities are also widely used to treat Tourette’s syndrome, helping to reduce the nervous tics associated with the condition.

The properties of cannabis seem to be helpful in so many pathological contexts. At this particular time in history, some have wondered whether marijuana could somehow also benefit the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 symptoms.

Marijuana appears to bring benefits in the prevention and treatment of covid-19

Cannabis and Covid-19: what the science says

Apparently so! According to a study by the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, it appears that CBD may help reduce the lung inflammation and cytokine storm that led to the death of covid-19 patients.

Studies are still too recent to determine the details of a possible cannabis-based therapy. Still, preliminary analyses show that CBD could alleviate patients’ breathing difficulties, reducing the risk of death from acute respiratory distress syndrome and eliminating treatments such as mechanical ventilation.

Researchers claim that pure cannabidiol can help restore adequate oxygen levels in the lungs, aiding recovery from the excessive inflammation typical of this virus.

These findings are further supported by other research that leads to the same conclusions.

According to two researchers from William Paterson University in Wayne (USA) in an article published in the National Library of Medicine, cannabis and cannabinoids in the therapeutic treatment of Covid-19 patients could help counteract Sars-CoV-2 infections.

Again, the anti-inflammatory properties of THC and CBD and their ability, therefore, to defuse one of the processes underlying respiratory complications in Coronavirus patients are highlighted.

As for possible preventive action of cannabis, a study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that cannabis-based treatments may affect the immune system’s response to infection. However, it is too early to speculate on the prescription of such treatments as preventive for Covid-19.

However, other studies examine the potential beneficial interaction between cannabinoids and Covid-19.

In particular, a study published in the National Library of Medicine showed that taking cannabinoids could block the entry of the virus – including variants – into lung cells.

Furthermore, research conducted on mice and published in Science Advances observed a beneficial effect of CBD on the virus’ ability to spread.

A study published only a few weeks ago in Science Advances, on the other hand, found – in a sample of mice – an effect of CBD on the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to replicate and spread [8].

In conclusion, what does the science say about the interaction between cannabis and Coronavirus?

As we know, studies on Covid-19 and its treatment are limited to the two years following the outbreak of the pandemic.

However, much scientific research has examined whether and how cannabis could contribute to combating the spread of the virus and treating the symptoms it induces in those who contract it.

What can be deduced from this is that medical cannabis is once again an important potential ally, thanks to its ability to reduce the lung inflammation that underlies most of the disease’s even fatal complications.

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